UK talk shows will feature more homegrown stars in the wake of the US actors’ strike that has halted the filming of Hollywood blockbusters and TV dramas.
Producers of some of TV’s biggest talk shows and daily magazine programs have a headache as actors follow in the footsteps of the cast of Oppenheimerwho left the premiere when the strike began earlier this month.
Movie promoters are a regular part of the chat show circuit, with series such as ITV’s This Morning and BBC One’s The Graham Norton Showwhich airs in the autumn and is known for attracting Hollywood A-listers – but the knock-on effect of the strike is being felt on British television.
A producer of a well-known show told the Observer: “We are lucky because we had already filmed a few movie stars. Fortunately, we have plenty of domestic stars to use and will use more of them. Another on a popular chat show said they would use “more homegrown celebrities.”
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (Sag-Aftra) began the union action, following a similar strike by writers, in protest against pay and the use of AI to mimic voices.
Sag-Aftra’s UK counterpart, Equity, is not participating, but some UK players, such as Oppenheimer star Emily Blunt, are Sag-Aftra members. Some have stock contracts but are working on films that have been shut down due to strikes by American colleagues, such as an adaptation of the musical Bad.
The issue has sparked some confusion among British actors who question whether they should publish shows made for US companies such as Netflix or Channel 5 owner Paramount.
Fraser Ayres, actor, writer and creator of ITV panel show Sorry, I didn’t know, said: “I think there are quite a few confused people who want to show solidarity and not jeopardize their future. I am for the strikes. AI is a big thing.”
Showbiz agent Jonathan Shalit, chairman of InterTalent, said actors were careful not to be labeled “scabs”.
He said: “The wealthy can see through these strikes because they have savings, but… in the short term it is devastating for a lot of people and I suspect some will leave the industry. But people understand that it’s short-term pain for long-term gain.
“It’s a scary time for everyone, including manufacturers, with budgets falling and costs rising.”
Channel 4’s The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan has just finished filming, with stars such as Jennifer Lawrence. Ben Wicks of production company Expectation said they “wouldn’t have gotten [them] if we made that series this month, it would have a big effect.”
Wicks also oversees Channel 4’s daytime chat show Steph’s packed lunchreturning in September, and said the strike “will definitely affect it…we have [previously] had an impressive array of American talent on the show”.
He said, “it’s obviously a shame” but added “there are plenty of other people promoting things” and the Leeds-based series will cover other topics such as consumer issues, fashion and cooking.
Chat shows have been canceled in the US because of the strikes and Wicks said an unintended consequence, if the action spread to the UK, could impact the diversity and working class who can afford to work in TV.
Steph’s packed lunch was filmed in Leeds and has boosted the city’s economy by working with local colleges to ensure the team of over 80 is made up of people from diverse backgrounds, which Wicks says delivers a “diversity of stories that reflect the diversity of life”.
Ayres, who also runs diversity company D and I, agreed: “It’s about the bigger picture and also talking about how actors and writers in the UK tend to be paid less than in the US.”
Equity general secretary Paul Fleming predicted that Sag-Aftra would win and said Equity had issued guidelines to its members.
He told the Observer the union was “alive to the possibility that some projects will be recast” using British actors by studios seeking to sidestep the American strike. That, he warned, could lead to a British strike as it would be “something we could look at to take action”.
The BBC declined to comment on the effect of the strikes The Graham Norton Show.
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